Local heritage conservation group Heritage Sabah is re closely watching the case involving the Atkinson Clock Tower site in Kota Kinabalu.
KOTA KINABALU: The High Court has granted more time for two city-dwellers to force City Hall and Sabah Housing and Town Development Authority (SHTDA) to hand over public documents pertaining to development projects in the city.
Judge David Wong Dak Wah allowed plantiff, Lim Swee Geck, 53, and Chang Chiew Kok @ Jefferi Johari, 32, more time to obtain the documents, failing which they will have to obtain a court order to force the authorities to make public the minutes of a meeting regarding some land adjoining a historic site that has been targeted for development.
The court was scheduled to make a ruling this week on an application for a judicial review to stop the construction of a 16-storey shopping mall near the city’s oldest surviving heritage site, the Atkinson Clock Tower.
Wong has postponed his decision to June 20. According to Section 18 of the Local Government Ordinance, documents of the city’s central planning committee should be accessible to the public.
Wong granted the adjournment after the defendants, Sabah Housing and Town Development Authority (SHTDA) and City Hall, represented by Hanafiah Kasim for the state attorney-general and Steve Ritikos for the federal attorney-general, failed to notify the court on the location of the minutes.
“In view of the fact that the counsel are ignorant of where those minutes are for public scrutiny, I allow the adjournment to dispute and file an affidavit in respect of this matter.
“This matter is adjourned to June 20,” Wong said.
Wong said that it was necessary to establish that the plaintiff had sought the minutes and were refused in writing before the court issues an order that the minutes be made available.
“The court cannot assume certain facts which have not been established,” he said during the hearing at the High Court here.
The plaintiff were represented by counsel Marcel Jude.
Local heritage conservation group Heritage Sabah are closely watching the case as it will set a precedent for other heritage conservation policies in Sabah.
“It is also important for the public to know their rights in regard to the inspection of public records and to ensure that local authorities practise effective and transparent policies and procedures,” a spokesman said.
Lim and Chang had filed an application for the judicial review of the project in February this year.
They are seeking an injunction against the defendants to prohibit them from carrying out any construction-related works near the historic clock tower.
They also hope to force the Sabah Housing and Town Development Authority and City Hall to make all minutes of their meetings with regard to development in the city available for public scrutiny.
The unique wooden Atkinson Tower, built in 1905 in memory of Francis George Atkinson, the first district officer of Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu), was gazetted as a heritage building in 1983.